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9/11 memorial at Huntington's Heckscher Park honors 43 town residents

WWII Veteran Morty Roberts, 92, of East Northport,

WWII Veteran Morty Roberts, 92, of East Northport, places a rose in a bucket during a memorial service for 9/11 victims at Heckscher Park in Huntington on Sunday. Credit: Bryan Bennett

A bell tolled 43 times in Huntington’s Heckscher Park Sunday, each sound representing one of the town residents who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Family members of victims stood somberly in the rain as town officials read each of the 43 victims' names .

The town’s annual 9/11 commemoration service drew about 100 people to the grassy area next to the weathered steel columns and walking path of the town memorial to the 43, which was dedicated in 2006 .

“It is in the memory of your loved ones that we hold this ceremony this year and every year so that we can remember your loss, which remains our loss, and educate those too young to have lived through that day,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said.

The ceremony, held in the past on Sept. 11, was moved to a Sunday this year so more family members could attend, he said. It is one of a number of 9/11 commemoration events scheduled across Long Island over the next few days.

After each bell toll, a member of the town veterans advisory board placed a single red rose into black plastic buckets that, after the ceremony, were left at the foot of the 9/11 memorial.

Mary Kay Duffy-Kemper,  45, of Huntington, sister of one of the victims, Michael J. Duffy, picked up three of the roses to take home to her children, ages 8, 10 and 12, as a visual representation of the uncle they never knew.

Duffy-Kemper said she speaks often to her children of Duffy.

“I see my brother in my children physically, in his mannerisms and in the way he lived his life,” she said as she clutched the three roses while holding an umbrella. “For me, through my children’s lives my brother lives on.”

Duffy was a week away from his 30th birthday on Sept. 11, 2001, working as a broker for the investment firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods on the 89th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the building.

Seventeen years later, the memories of that day are still raw, Duffy-Kemper said.

“It’s very hard,” she said. “To see his name, to hear his name — I don’t think it will ever get easy.”

Nearby, William Reilly, 85, the father of another Keefe, Bruyette & Woods employee who died in the attacks, James B. Reilly, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with his son’s photo.

“He was going to get engaged in December” 2001, he said.

Reilly brought three nieces who were born after their uncle died.

“Everyone in the family loved him, and we’ve heard all these stories about him and heard that he was such a great person,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, 15, of Centerport.

Steve and Linda Martin of Huntington Station were at the ceremony to honor two friends, Terrence P. Farrell and Peter A. Nelson, both FDNY members.

“It’s important to remember them and never let them out of our thoughts and prayers,” said Linda Martin, 62. “They’re still in our hearts and minds. It’s too easy to forget.”

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